Op-ED – David Childs: The death of civility in politics, how we move toward more civil democratic dialogue – NKyTribune

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Another election cycle has come and gone and the United States has seen peaceful transitions of power at various levels of government.

It has to be said that this is an off-cycle election and the real test will come with the 2024 election. But for the time being, we should all express our sincere gratitude that the election results were received peacefully in the entire country at the federal level and in all regions, districts, cities, villages and villages.

At any time in the history of our country, when we have a peaceful transfer of power, it is a victory for democracy and the rule of law.

History repeats itself

But while there is relative peace in our land today, no one can help but notice the constant tension, sharp disagreements, and violence that springs from competing political ideologies. It may seem shocking and out of the ordinary, but it is more common than one might realize.

Dr. David Childs

Unfortunately, political violence is nothing new. Historical examples abound, including the French Revolution, Nazism, the American Civil War, post-Reformation racial violence, the September 11 attacks, and most recently the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol. All of these were examples of individuals who came to the conclusion that disagreements and differences could not be resolved at the table, leading to violence. Some of these can be considered as reasons, while others can be international and domestic terrorism.

We see a new – but somewhat less historically significant – form of extremism stemming from the fact that populist support is unable to deal with political disagreements, or that people may not see things from their perspective. A particularly disturbing example of what we have seen in recent political demonstrations is in 1856 when South Carolina pro-slavery Congressman Preston Brooks entered the Senate armed with a cane and nearly struck a Massachusetts senator. Charles Sumner, staunch abolitionist, until death.

While we marvel at these historical examples, it seems sad to see a return to violent political history in America and the world at large. We only have to look at the atrocities taking place in the Middle East to see how political discord and ethnic conflict can manifest in terrifying ways.

Social media timelines around the world have displayed images of unimaginable civilian and military deaths from the conflict in Israel in a difficult-to-view format. In the United States over the past few years, the news has been full of protesters brawling, throwing punches, and wielding sticks, clubs, and guns to attack protesters.

On another level of violence, we see an alarming increase in racially and ethnically motivated mass killings in the United States, as the perpetrators follow the political ideology of white supremacy.

Open civil dialogue is key to a successful democracy.

In a democratic society it is very important for people to share their voice and feel comfortable to come to the table to discuss any subject. However, without certain civility parameters and guidelines in place, it becomes very difficult to have a meaningful conversation. When individuals from both sides talk to each other, one cannot hear or listen.

In this way, citizens may struggle to share their true feelings if they fear repercussions for expressing their opinions. One only has to examine political discussions on social media to see how quickly decency breaks down when someone makes an opinion that runs counter to that political echo chamber. For an interesting example, a local writer and columnist, anonymously, has faced racist threats and attacks and even death on social media for expressing some views on diversity, equity and inclusion.

In such cases, instead of talking things out, conversations and situations turn violent, making people reluctant to share real feelings. This is a phenomenon that can lead to the breakdown of true democracy and the creation of a totalitarian or totalitarian government system, or even a mob-ruled society.

Lack of tolerance for opposing views

The concern in the United States today is that people seem to have zero tolerance for opposing socio-political views. We should try to be more open and tolerant of other people’s viewpoints and those who disagree with us. This does not mean that one has to agree with opposing arguments, but simply listening and understanding another’s point of view can go a long way to restoring decency in our world. Additionally, a better understanding of opposing viewpoints can help us strengthen our positions, or better yet, find ways to approach non-binary political lines.

There is a growing need for people to have civil conversations and conversational skills and not get offended when someone disagrees with them. The country is divided in different ways. This is ironic because some of the values ​​of American democratic society are unity, tolerance, justice, freedom, and diversity.

America is known as a melting pot where individuals from different cultural, racial, political and social backgrounds live together. Scholars have even moved from the melting pot to the salad bowl. In The Salad Bowl, people do not sacrifice their identity to embrace Euro-American middle-class values, instead, they hold on to their cultural background, but at the same time understand what it means to be American.

There is a growing division in US society along many ideological and social lines, these divisions often stem from debates between Democrats and Republicans, European Americans and people of color, poor and rich, and many other issues. But a truly democratic society is designed for discussion and dialogue and shared governance among people from different backgrounds.

Start with the youth

Some of these conversations may start in classrooms across the country. Schools are a great place to teach students the concept of civility. Social studies teachers often have strong political and sociological views, but they must be the first line of defense in showing students how to be civil.

Teachers can create situations in which students learn to discuss or discuss controversial topics without being contemptuous or worse, without becoming angry and acting on those feelings.

Above the circumstances

This is not a call for a “let’s get along” strategy, not to perpetuate a false peaceful situation where people don’t share their true opinions. In this case voices are muted and often only high, privileged and strong voices are heard through the added layer.

Democracy is messy, people are going to agree, and solutions are often hard to come by. Tempers will flare, feelings will be hurt, disagreements will arise, but as a nation we must learn how to better resolve our differences or we will be repeating our nation’s violent past.

This is an opportune time to remember the wisdom of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche when he said, “Those who forget their history are bound to repeat it.”

Dr. David Childs, DD, Ph.D. He is Associate Professor of Social Studies, History and Black Studies and Director of the Black Studies Program at Northern Kentucky University.

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